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Despite defense objections, judge enters not guilty plea for James Holmes

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — The judge in the James Holmes trial entered a standard not guilty plea for Holmes despite objections from his defense attorneys Tuesday morning.

During the morning hearing, Holmes defense said they were not yet ready to enter a plea and asked for more time.

Defense attorney Daniel King said he was “ethically not prepared to enter a plea today,” and asked for a continuance.

Family members of the victims sighed in unison when King said the defense would be ready to enter a plea by May or June 1.

Judge William Sylvester denied that request agreeing with prosecutors to get the case moving forward.  “How am I to make an informed decision based on the limited information you’ve given me?” Sylvester asked.

When Sylvester declared that he would move forward with the arraignment, one man held his hands in the air in a “hallelujah” gesture.

Prosecutors argued that in the eight months since the shooting, the defense has had plenty of time to come up with a plea today.

Holmes four-week trial is expected to start August 5.

The not guilty plea sets a deadline for when prosecutors can determine if they will seek the death penalty. That decision is now expected to be April 1.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 others during the July 20 shooting spree at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater.  He faces 166 counts of murder and attempted murder.

During the hearing Holmes sat quiet. His once famous orange hair is now gone and Holmes has grown a beard.

Holmes parents were also in the courtroom. They sat quiet, holding hands and looked down much of the time.

Insanity plea still possible

Sylvester left open the possibility for Holmes to enter a not guilty by reason of insanity plea at a later date.

According to the Colorado Bar Association, an insanity defense refers to “a person who is so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act is not accountable.”

If Holmes’ enters such a plea, he would waive all medical confidentiality and will have to turn over the name of any doctor or psychologist who may have treated him, according to Colorado law.

“If he enters the not guilty by reason of insanity plea, he’s going to be examined by state doctors and any statement he makes to those state doctors are given to the prosecution for potential use later,” Beller said.

On Monday, a judge ruled that Holmes will also have to agree to be drugged by doctors to assess his condition if he enters an insanity plea.

Earlier this month, Holmes’ lawyers tried to have Colorado’s insanity defense laws changed.

The attorneys asked the judge to rule parts of the state’s insanity defense laws unconstitutional.

Among other issues, they cited the requirement that a defendant “cooperate” with examining psychiatrists as a violation of the defendant’s privilege against compelled self-incrimination.

Family members of some of those who died in the shooting say they would be unhappy with an insanity defense.

Jessica Watts, whose cousin was killed, said she does not believe Holmes is insane.

“Absolutely not. This was months and months of planning and thousands of dollars spent on his part in order to pull this horrific night off,” she said.

Holmes faces 166 counts in July 20 shooting

Holmes is charged with a total of 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges.

Authorities say he booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, then traveled to the movie theater armed with four weapons, tear gas and body armor planning to kill audience members during a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.”

Witnesses said the gunman roamed the theater, shooting randomly as people tried to scramble away or cowered between seats.

Among the 41 calls to 911, one stands out. In the 27-second call, at least 30 shots can be heard amid the chaos.

At his preliminary hearing in January, police who responded described hellish scenes inside the theater and described finding Holmes, dressed in body armor, standing outside, seeming “detached from it all,” according to Officer Jason Oviatt.